There were black, heated cauldrons over a short conveyor belt where lipsticks/glosses were poured into plastic moulds underneath by turning a tiny lever. You had to light a match under the spout to get the liquid flowing, which often resulted in burnt fingers. It was all too easy to pour too much into these moulds and make a mess (obviously, this was frowned upon).
One day, one of the older ladies threw what she thought was a spent match into a box behind her, only for it to burst into flames! (It was full of tissue paper).
The actual lip sticks were made elsewhere in the building and I did not get to work with those. An ex worker, who was there during the long, hot summer of 1976, told me “I worked in the lipstick room, which was a source of envy as only a few people worked in it and it was comparatively calm and cool. I remember my co-workers in there: Shirley and Beryl (sisters), I think Shirley was a supervisor, a woman called Winnie and a nice friendly girl called Lynn who was a few years older than me.” She also told me “Off the lipstick room was a mixing room containing vats of sludgy lipstick which a man called Gordon Hardy (who I think was in the Salvation Army, he was always singing hymns) would decant into buckets to be poured into our black pots (‘cauldrons’ you called them, an apt description) for us to heat to the required temp then pour the liquid into the moulds underneath – you had to get it to the exact temp and pour it at a steady speed to avoid it being full of air bubbles or other imperfections. Then they would set and after turning a handle at the side the mould would lift out with all the lipsticks in their cases. After being checked for imperfections of bubbles, irregular colour or cold marks they were sprayed with silicone and went off to be packed. I used to take samples to the lab for colour-checking; I quite enjoyed doing that and seeing glimpses of behind the scenes parts of the business. “
She had previously worked on the shampoo / bubble bath belts and commented: ”I remember also a woman manager/supervisor in the main factory called Cynthia and a man called Alf, one of the few men there.”
She continued, “Because I had a few O levels there were attempts to move me into the admin side of things, which I resisted as I was quite happy making lipsticks…Seems barmy now”.